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A Rejection With A Silver Lining


Just got a rejection email from an agent for one of my novels. 

 

I can’t deny it was a real blow. I had high hopes for this one. On the bright side, the agency gave me some detailed feedback on my query letter. 

 

I suppose she makes some good points. I’ll read through them again once the initial sting of rejection wears off. 

 

In the meantime, I’ve cut and pasted it below – in case any of you guys find her advice helpful.

 

Dear Mr. Gibbs,

 

Thank you for your interest in the Write Good Read Literary Agency. 

 

First, let me start by saying that, having read the five pages you enclosed with your query, I’m inclined to concede your claim that a book like Dracula vs The Daleks has never been offered to our (or any other) agency before. That said, I’m afraid I can’t see myself representing this.

 

However, as you know, our agency recently introduced a ‘Failure Feedback’ policy. At the end of each week, an unsuccessful query letter is picked from the rejection pile and constructive feedback given to the lucky author.

 

This week, your letter was chosen. Please note: following any or all of the suggestions made here does not guarantee future success (though it is my sincere belief that it will help). 

 

PRESENTATION

Before we start, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions about query letters in general.

 

I think it’s fair to say that printing out an individually addressed letter would have made a better first impression than simply crossing out the name and address of the previous agent to whom you pitched, especially when your letter started with ‘You’re the first agent I’m offering this to…’ 

 

Also, while I like the color red as much as anyone else, your choice of crimson ink on scarlet notepaper made for a difficult read.

 

Now, on to the query itself:

 

INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH

WHY US?

We always like it when writers give a genuine reason for choosing our agency to pitch their work to eg; we recently sold a book for one of our clients in a similar style/genre, or as a result of something we expressed an interest in on our website/blog. That said, I don’t think ‘Because your office is in California and I’ve always wanted to go there’ is a good basis for selecting a potential agent.

 

STORY LENGTH

At 430,000 words, your manuscript is a tad lengthy in today’s publishing world. You should consider dividing it into a series – though, if the first five pages are anything to go by, a quick search-and-delete for the string ‘and then’ should make a major dent in the word count.

 

GENRE

For future reference, despite what you may have heard to the contrary, ‘SyFy’ is not a recognized genre in the literary world. 

 

PITCH-PARA

When it comes to the pitch-para itself, what agents really want to know about is the story. Instead of ‘It’s a stonking good read, if I do say so myself’ and ‘My old gran said it wasn’t as bad as she’d expected’, you should tell us about your protagonist’s story problem, along with some of the obstacles that stand in his/her way.

 

On a side note, I know you feel your novel is ready to go straight to the printer, but believe me when I tell you there’s a lot more to the editing/revision process, even after you've ‘ran it through that spellcheck thingy twice’.

 

REFERENCES

Agents are more interested in writing-related experience than your ability to turn your eyelids inside out, no matter how much you think it would ‘wow them at book-signings’. The same goes for your extensive comic book collection. 

 

YOUR CLOSING PARAGRAPH

Most of our potential clients close with something like ‘Thank you for considering my work.’ I’m sure you’ll agree it sounds better than ‘I know you’re not so stupid that you’ll pass up a golden opportunity like what I’m offering.

 

I hope you find these suggestions useful. 

 

One final note; you mentioned in your query letter that you’ve almost completed your second novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Velociraptors. If you sign and return the attached PDF document, promising never to submit work to our agency again, one of my colleagues will provide a written critique of the first five pages of Dracula vs The Daleks.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Agnes S. Hardacre

For the Write Good Read Literary Agency

 

 

I’ll print out the PDF over the weekend. It’s not the contract I was hoping for, but I’d be crazy to pass up the chance of a feedback from an agent.

 

I’ll post their critique here when I get it.


If you found this helpful, you might also like:

Paperback Writer: Great song, but what if it was a real query letter?
   

The Agent Pitch: 10 Responses You Don't Want to Hear

10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to an Agent During an In-Person Pitch



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Comments

( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
wendigomountain
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Careful now, editors don't like it when you make their rejection letters public. And since literary agents aren't born, they are summoned from the infernal regions by dark incantation and blasphemous rituals, that might be almost twice as bad.

Good stuff, Jon!

Of course now I'm reluctant to try shopping my piece "Harry Potter is a Sweet Transvestite from Transexual Transylvania." A think with these Twilight books, there's just a glut of vampire stuff out there and publishers are probably leery of making it too pervasive. Stupid Stephanie Meyer anyway.
jongibbs
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
I knew it was a long shot, but I really thought the Dalek angle would swing things in my favor.

Ah, well. Can't win 'em all ;)

Edited at 2009-08-08 04:51 pm (UTC)
madali
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
I'm not a writer, nor an aspiring one, so I just read your post and wondered at this,

"If you sign and return the attached PDF document, promising never to submit work to our agency again..."

Is this a normal practice? Why would an agency want you to promise never to submit your work again?
jongibbs
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
I'm told it's not common practise (though a good number of short story editors have suggested I send future work elsewhere).

I think they want to make sure their offer to critique my first five pages can't be misconstrued as a bribe, rather than the selfless act of kindness which it is. You know how some writers complain of favoritism and such ;)
kmarkhoover
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
That is too darn funny. LOL!
jongibbs
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
Go on, mock my pain. I can take it :(
maryjdal
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
This was hilarious! Thanks for the laugh.
jongibbs
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Et tu, Mary? :P
lonfiction
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
You should've marinated the whole thing in Old Spice before you sent it. How would they ever resist it then? :D

Thanks for the funny!
jongibbs
Aug. 8th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
Of course! Why didn't I think of that? After all, garlic powder is so yesterday.

Thanks for the tip, Lon. I'm glad your mom's surgery went well :)

black_faery
Aug. 8th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
*giggles*

Sometimes rejection can be a harsh lesson... ;-)
jongibbs
Aug. 8th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
True, very true :)
bogwitch64
Aug. 8th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
You're a hoot. You had me going for a minute!
jongibbs
Aug. 8th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
hehehehehehehehe :)
a_r_williams
Aug. 8th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
He got me too.

"Before we start, I’d like to make a couple of suggestions about query letters in general.



I think it’s fair to say that printing out an individually addressed letter would have made a better first impression than simply crossing out the name and address of the previous agent to whom you pitched, especially when your letter started with ‘You’re the first agent I’m offering this to…"

I must have read that part over three or four times. Once I continued on, realizing that is what it said, and read the "Why Us?" paragraph I finally got the joke.
bogwitch64
Aug. 9th, 2009 12:29 am (UTC)
Ha! It's because he's so believable! And his humor subtle; and then you feel like an idiot because HE GOT YOU AGAIN!

When I got to the part about red on red stationary, I knew it was a joke. Who ever heard of a Brit--even a transplanted one--do anything so flashy as use red paper. :-D
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:10 am (UTC)
:P
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:08 am (UTC)
I just hope I get a better response from real agents when Dracula vs The Daleks is finally ready to send out ;)
mongrelheart
Aug. 8th, 2009 10:14 pm (UTC)
HEEEEheehee! Can't wait for the critique =D
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
Thanks. I mailed the contract last night. As soon as they send me the critique, I'll post it :)
marshallpayne1
Aug. 8th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
Funny stuff, Jon! :D
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:15 am (UTC)
Thank you, sir :)
jmeadows
Aug. 9th, 2009 01:06 am (UTC)
Wow, I can't believe you'd post the letter I sent you in public like that. Why would you do that? While it is your rejection and you're free to do with it as you see fit, this comes across as unprofessional. At the very least, you should put it behind a lock.

Best wishes for your success. (And I'm still picking the glitter out of my hair. Next time, no glitter please.)
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)
Uh-oh, busted :(

So sorry, Jodi. I didn't think you'd ever find out, and I did change the names.

Also, please accept my apologies for the glitter in your hair thing. I had the same problem when I put it in the envelope. It took me half an hour to brush it all out ;)

Speaking of bad query letters, you must have some great stories to tell. How about giving us a 'Query Letters That Should Never Have Seen The Light Of Day' post on your journal sometime?




jmeadows
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:26 am (UTC)
http://jmeadows.livejournal.com/643066.html

*g*

Mostly, I think it's inappropriate to rag on them too much, but this one just blew me away. :)
jongibbs
Aug. 30th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
So sorry, I just realized you put a link on this comment. For some reason I didn't see it before, hence the previous reply.

Very funny. I'll have to remember the block capital/better than Harry Potter/if you're a real agent you can get me the deal I want approach.

I'm sure Jenny signed him up right away :)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 9th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
AHAHAHAHA!

‘SyFy’ is not a recognized genre in the literary world. SO funny.
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)
Hey, it was an honest mistake :P
clarionj
Aug. 9th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
LOL, you totally sucked me in at first. Hahaha. Love it.
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:27 am (UTC)
Thank you kindly, Ma'am :)

catephoenix
Aug. 9th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
Too much fun.
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
:)
naomi_jay
Aug. 9th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
Lol, wise words, all of them. Now I know where I'm going wrong.
jongibbs
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
It eases my pain, knowing that my failure can help others succeed ;)
hildebabble
Aug. 10th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Sounds like Sherlock Holmes is in a real pickle here. Velociraptors have problem-solving intelligence. He'd have them all attacking the fences when the feeders came. ;)

[Catching up on weekend reads. This really made my day!]
jongibbs
Aug. 10th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
Hehe, he had enough trouble with that Baskerville mutt. Still, I have faith in him :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Dec. 1st, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
Re: WJT
Lol, we'll soon find out. It's with beta readers at the moment. I hope to be pitching it by the end of January :)
rymrytr
Jun. 28th, 2011 08:52 am (UTC)


Please Jon, don't pitch it. The land fill can't handle that much paper at one time.

Send it in.

I mean, I realize that postage for 3.14159 Reams of paper is extravagant, but perhaps if you sent it wrapped in plain brown paper and marked the return address as:

Madame de l'Pamplemousses Jumelles
White House Annex
1600 Pencil Veins Ya Ave
White Horse Nevada Oh oh oh oh oh

They might accept it...

or not...


jongibbs
Jun. 28th, 2011 10:12 am (UTC)
Friends in high places, eh :)
( 40 comments — Leave a comment )

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